The International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights
documents and exposes human rights and labor violations related to racial discrimination or discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; advocates for legal and policy reform at the national level; uses strategic litigation at the regional and international levels; and engages the international community on critical human rights issues, including at the United Nations and regional bodies.
The human rights culture is formed by individuals whose rights are threatened, violated, or otherwise non-existent. We believe that social change begins at the local level and is strengthened through alliances between people and organizations that share the same needs, values, and experiences. Our work is guided by the principles of equality and diversity and the goal of making sustainable long-term structural changes.
The Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights contributes to the promotion and defense of human rights through training, technical assistance, advocacy, and strategic litigation at the regional and international levels.
Our vision is a society of equality built on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which human rights are respected without any kind of discrimination.
Seek justice for victims of human rights abuses.
Work to promote racial, ethnic and gender equality, and to promote the rights of people who face discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Help to empower individuals and communities to achieve structural changes.
Strengthen the capacity of our partners to monitor and document human rights abuses and to make recommendations at the national, regional and international level.
Executive Director and Founder
Until October 2014, Carlos served as Global Rights’ Director of the Ethnic and Racial Equality Program/Advisor on the Rights of LGBTI People. He is trained as a journalist and a lawyer. Carlos is working to combat racial and ethnic discrimination and discrimination based on different sexual orientations and gender identities in the Americas and in some countries in Africa. He has 25 years of experience working with the Organization of American States and its different bodies, including the Inter-American Human Rights Protection System, Summit of the Americas Process, General Assembly, and Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs. He conducts trainings, offers technical assistance, and monitors the UN system.
Carlos worked for the Commission for the Defense of Human Rights in Central America (CODEHUCA) as an Advocacy Director and he was the Latin America Program Officer for Penal Reform International.
He holds a B.A. in Mass Media and a Law Degree (J.D.) from the Universidad de Costa Rica. He also obtained an M.A. in Human Rights from the United Nations University for Peace.
CHRISTINA M. FETTERHOFF
Latin America Senior Legal Program Officer
Christina works with human rights defenders in Latin America to build their capacity in international advocacy and litigation through innovative training programs.
Christina was previously a Fellow at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, where she was responsible for litigation and advocacy before the Inter-American System’s human rights mechanisms on issues of violence against women, racial discrimination, freedom of expression, and the right to a nationality. Her interest in social justice issues in Latin America led her to study transitional justice in Argentina, intern with an indigenous rights organization in Ecuador, and eventually become a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay. While there, Christina worked with community leaders to expand local government services, especially for women and children.
Christina received her J.D. from American University Washington College of Law, where she specialized in international human rights law and gender issues. She also holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University and a B.A. in Political Science from Bryn Mawr College. She is admitted to practice law in the state of New York.
Latin America Program Officer
Elvia works on advocacy projects within the sphere of the Organization of American States, principally in favor of the ratification of the Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance.
Previously, Elvia worked for many years as the International Affairs Director at the organization Afroamérica XXI. In this role, she advocated for the Afro-Latino population and was the coordinator of many international projects for Afro-Latinos. Also, along with the organization Global Rights – Partners for Justice, she was one of the Afro-Latino leaders who helped to advocate for the creation of the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination at the OAS. As a member of various Afro-Latino organizations, she has published numerous training materials and is the author of the book entitled Aportes del pueblo afrodescendiente. La historia oculta de América Latina. Elvia Duque studied Law at the Universidad Santiago de Cali and was born in Cali, Colombia.
ANA VICTORIA BOLAÑOS
Latin America Legal Program Officer
Ana works with human rights defenders in Latin America to support and strengthen their advocacy capacity at the domestic and international levels.
Before joining Race & Equality, Ana worked for the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), where she provided legal analysis and assisted in litigation and advocacy before the Inter-American System of Human Rights. She also served as a Legal Advisor to the Myrna Mack Foundation in Guatemala, where she focused on various human rights issues such as women’s access to justice, the rights of the LGBTIQ community, and transitional justice. Ana interned with the American Bar Association, Rule of Law Initiative, Minority Rights Group, and Latin American Women’s Rights Service.
Ana holds an M.A. in Human Rights and International Politics from City University in London and a B.S. in Legal and Social Sciences from Universidad Rafael Landívar in Guatemala.
CAITLIN M. KELLY
Latin America Legal Program Officer
Caitlin works with human rights defenders in Latin America, focusing on the administration of justice in Cuba and the right to nationality in the Dominican Republic.
Prior to joining Race & Equality, Caitlin was a Policy Fellow at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, where she provided legal analysis on proposed state legislation affecting reproductive rights. She was the Helton Fellow at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, where she assisted in litigation and advocacy before the Inter-American System of Human Rights. Caitlin also has experience working in Colombia, where she clerked with a judge in the Justice and Peace Tribunal and conducted a study of the Colombian transitional justice system.
Caitlin received her J.D. from New York University School of Law, where she studied international human rights and reproductive rights. She also holds a B.A. in Chemistry and Spanish Language and Literature from Kalamazoo College. She is admitted to practice law in the State of New York.
LGBTI Program Officer
Zuleika is the LGBTI Program Officer and works with human rights defenders in Latin America to support and strengthen their advocacy capacity at the domestic and international levels.
Before joining Race & Equality, Zuleika completed the J.D. Distinguished Fellowship of American University Washington College of Law at Lesbianas Independientes Feministas Socialistas (LIFS), an Lesbian, trans, and bisexual (LTB) organization in Lima, Peru where she served as a member of its legal team and conducted workshops on LTB rights for Peruvian civil society. Additionally, she was a research assistant at the Academy on Human Rights and International Law and the Anti-Torture Initiative. Zuleika was an intern at the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and the Study for the Defense of Women’s Rights (DEMUS), among other NGOs.
Zuleika received her law degree from American University Washington College of Law, where she focused on human rights and gender. She also holds an M.A. in International Relations from the School of International Service of American University and a B.A. in Political Science and Public Affairs from Syracuse University. She is admitted to practice law in the District of Colombia.
Latin America Program Officer
Johanna develops and executes capacity-building programs for human rights defenders in Cuba.
She previously worked as a consultant for the Women’s Human Rights Institute, where she trained indigenous women to defend their rights in the Inter-American human rights system. She was also director of the Free Legal Clinic at Universidad San Francisco (Quito, Ecuador), representing victims of human rights violations before national and international bodies. She taught public international law and clinics at Universidad San Francisco’s Faculty of Law. She has been a consultant and Fellow at the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, a consultant at the United Nations office in Ecuador, and a consultant for various civil society groups in Latin America.
Johanna received her law degree from Universidad San Francisco, an LLM in International Human Rights Law from the University of Notre Dame, and a master’s degree in international relations from the Latin American School of Social Science (FLACSO).
MARIA FERNANDA ESCOBAR
Maria Fernanda coordinates Race and Equality’s office in Colombia. She also designs and implements programs to support our Afro-Colombian and LGBTI partners’ abilities in advocacy skills and organizational strengthening.
Before joining our team, Maria Fernanda worked on women’s and LGBTI issues for the Government of Bogotá. She also has experience advising grassroots organizations on project management and researching the impact of Colombia’s armed conflict on Afro-Colombian women.
Maria Fernanda studied political science at the Universidad Javeriana (Bogotá, Colombia). She also studied research design and received a master’s degree in gender studies from Central European University. She has been honored by the CEU Budapest Foundation and received a Research Fellowship from the CEU’s Internship Support Program. As a member of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Professional Fellows Program for Economic Empowerment, she studied at the University of Connecticut and the Universidad de la Paz (San José, Costa Rica).
Legal Adviser in Geneva
Tania is responsible for designing and carrying out Race & Equality’s advocacy strategy before the UN Human Rights treaty bodies and Special Procedures Mandates.
Prior to joining Race & Equality, Tania was a human rights field officer at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Honduras. There, she was responsible for monitoring and reporting on the situation of indigenous peoples, ESCR, forced displacement, and migrants’ rights. Prior to that, she worked for Asylum Access Ecuador and volunteered at African Middle East Refugee Assistance (Egypt) providing legal advice for refugees.
Her experience in the protection of human rights has led Tania to focus on the issue of discrimination to ensure equal access to justice. Tania received her LLM from SOAS University of London (UK), where she specialized in international human rights law. She also holds an B.A. in Law and Political Sciences and an M.A. in migration from the Autonomous University of Madrid (Spain).
GETYE DAGNE MULAT
Gettye directly reports to the Executive Director and performs all day-to-day financial transactions, as well as preparing the organization’s periodic financial reports.
Gettye has over 20 years of work experience in the field of accounting and financial management. Before joining Race & Equality, he worked at a publicly-owned enterprise, a coffee plantation development corporation, and in his own professional consultancy firm in Ethiopia.
Gettye received his B.A. in Accounting from Addis Ababa University/Ethiopia, as well as a professional certification from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in the United Kingdom (UK).
Latin America Program Assistant
Alejandro provides logistical support to the Institute’s projects, as well as performing daily operational tasks for the Washington, DC office. He is also tasked with exploring new techniques for improving the organization’s reach and new development opportunities.
Before joining Race & Equality, Alejandro interned at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, where he supported the Contracts and Grants department monitoring the implementation of various regional democracy projects, including some in Latin America and the Caribbean. Alejandro monitored federal compliance measures and supported the procurement of goods and services.
Alejandro received an M.A. in International Commerce and Policy in 2015 from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA and a B.A. in Global Affairs in 2012. His focuses on human rights violations, democracy, and economic development in the Americas. Alejandro has research experience in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and his native country of Bolivia.
Latin America Program Assistant
Caleb is a Program Assistant at Race & Equality’s Washington, D.C. office. He supports multiple projects, particularly the projects on Cuba and Nicaragua.
Caleb previously worked in the field of workers’ rights and the international labor movement, participating in union organizing, labor-community partnerships, and efforts to defend freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining in both the US and Latin America. He spent a year in Atlanta, Georgia as a volunteer with the Episcopal Service Corps, working at a church-based organization serving low-income and homeless clients.
Caleb received his B.A. from Georgetown University and M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where he studied the role of social movements and civil society in international affairs. He has research and fieldwork experience in Ecuador, Colombia, and Argentina.
LGBTI Program Assistant
Craig supports the Institute’s LGBTI projects in the various countries where we work.
Before joining Race & Equality, Craig was a Fulbright Scholar in Bogotá for two years, where he completed an ETA grant at two private universities while also studying the peace process and transitional justice surrounding it. He spent a year in Boston working with educational exchange programs for South American students at Education First.
Craig is a graduate of Indiana University Bloomington, where he completed a triple major in International Relations, Spanish, and Portuguese. His focus was on Human Rights and International Law, with an emphasis on indigenous rights in Brazil. Craig has research and fieldwork experience in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru.
Latin America Women’s Rights Advisor
Melissa works in Colombia as Race and Equality’s consultant for women’s rights. She accompanies Afro-descendant women in the countries where we work, supporting them as they raise awareness of their experiences and build their capacities for activism.
Before joining Race and Equality, Melissa worked as a research assistant at Universidad del Norte (Barranquilla, Colombia). She also worked with the Atlantic regional chapter of Colombia’s Electoral Observation Mission and as Program Coordinator at the Atlantic Coastal Forum’s human rights program. She coordinated the Observatory of Colombian LGBTI Political Participation, a program maintained by the LGBTI organization Caribe Afirmativo.
Melissa studied political science and received a master’s degree in gender studies, along with two years of pedagogical training and experience, at Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia). She was also a fellow at the Swedish Federation for LGBTQI Rights (RSFL), participating in LGBTI rights trainings in Sweden and South Africa. She participates in peace, LGBTI, and women’s rights activism.
LGBTI Advisor in Colombia
Laura is Race and Equality’s LGBTI Advisor for Colombia. She heightens the visibility, denounces violations, and promotes the human rights of the LGBTI population in Colombia (especially as pertains to black transgender people), assisting our partner organizations through the provision of legal, advocacy, and training strategies.
Before joining Race and Equality, Laura was an a Fellow at the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Rights (RFSL) and has accompanied the Corporación FEMM (organization of lesbian and non-heterosexual women) in processes of popular education, advocacy actions, and legal advice. She worked at the Technical Secretariat of the Fund for Strengthening and Protection for Human Rights Defenders (FFP).
Laura earned her law degree from the National University of Colombia with a speaciality in Administrative Law. She also served as a specialist in Public Policies and Gender Justice of the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO).
LGBTI Advisor in Brazil
Isaac Porto is the LGBTI Advisor for Race and Equality in Brazil. He helps document the human rights violations of trans persons in Brazil and Latin America.
During his time studying law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, he researched the mass incarceration and privatization of the prison system in Brazil, confirming that the penal system has a preference for poor Afro-descendant youth.
Isaac holds an M.A. in the Theory of State and Constitutional Law, with an emphasis on human rights, democracy, and international order. As a part of this degree, he researched the intersectionality and overlap of class, race, gender, and sexuality, as well as the relationships between criminal law and heteronormativity. He also conducted research on the health of Afro-descendant and trans persons, genocide of Afro-descendants, LGBT-phobia, violence, and decolonization.
Leyla hails from Nicaragua and manages the design and implementation of the Institute’s communication strategy. She is also responsible for raising the visibility of grassroots partners, publicizing rights violations and promoting human rights through digital and in loco strategies alongside Race and Equality’s partner organizations.
Before joining Race and Equality, Leyla worked as a Communication Advisor for Ipas Central America, where she implemented the organization’s communication strategy and created educational materials to raise awareness of human rights, especially sexual and reproductive rights, for women and girls in the region. In addition, Leyla worked as a journalist for almost ten years for El Nuevo Diario de Nicaragua, beginning as a reporter on political, social and economic issues and later advancing to be co-editor of the digital edition of the newspaper. She was also a consultant for the civil organization Centro de Estudios y Análisis Político, producing the white paper State-Civil Society Relationship, which documented allegations of state harassment against Nicaraguan civil society organizations between 2007 and 2008.
Leyla graduated with a degree in Social Communication from the Universidad Centroamericana in Managua and has studied global editorial management at the Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, as well as journalism in social development at the Tecnológico de Monterrey.
Communications Advisor for LGBTI Brasil Program
Paolla handles all communications work for our work on LGBTI rights in Brazil and supports the implementation of our region-wide communications strategy.
Before joining us, Paolla worked in the field of public relations, particularly in cultural and business promotions. She has focused her past work as a journalist and communications specialist on the topics of race, gender, and intersectional feminism, especially the development of Afro-descendant identity and consciousness for social movements seeking racial and gender justice.
Paolla is trained as a journalist and holds a master’s degree in Culture and Territory from Universidad Federal Fluminense (Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil)
PEDRO LEÓN CORTÉS
Advisor in Colombia
Pedro is responsible for offering technical assistance to our partner organizations on the methodological aspects required to produce human rights reports that can serve as advocacy tools. He also supports Race & Equality’s training and research activities in the region.
Over the last 12 years, Pedro has been involved in the organizing processes of the Afro-Colombian population victimized by Colombia’s armed conflict, in particular with the work of the National Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians (Asociación Nacional de Afro-Colombianos Desplazados, AFRODES). His contributions as researcher and activist have helped strengthen national and international advocacy efforts that seek to improve public policy for the protection of the rights of Afro-Colombian communities. Pedro played a central role in supporting AFRODES’ first actions before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Pedro holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Howard University (Washington, D.C.), where he attended as a Fulbright Scholar in the Colombian Program for Afro-descendant Leaders. His doctoral dissertation analyzed the international advocacy processes between 1990s-2015 related to human rights violations against Afro-Colombian communities. He holds an M.A. in Political Studies from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and a Psychology degree from the Universidad de los Andes; he received the degree of Specialist in International Cooperation and Development Project Management from the Universidad Externado de Colombia.